What a tedious and boring thing it is, to get old, especially for that generation that once went around singing and dancing. The irritating thing about getting older isn't so much the increased aches and pains, it is more about being ignored and marginalized. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is about group of old people who are moving on into their retirement years, that frightening zone where you are ignored, but this particular group takes a leap of faith into a very different culture. A rich culture, with these senior citizens, takes outsourcing to the next stage.
British senior citizens travel to India to either address or get away from their problems. Why should we care? As a matter of fact, the movie is rife with cliches and predictability. But when those people include veteran English actors, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, among others, it's almost impossible not to. Some movies like Marigold Hotel, are better off going easy on the surprises, and concentrating on a reassuring level of actorly craft.
PlotEvelyn (Judi Dench) lives in London and is adrift with troubles. Her husband of 40 years has died and left her drowning in debt. The desperately unhappy woman, Jean (Penelope Wilton) and her husband, Douglas (Bill Nighy), made a bad investment in their daughter's software company. Old Norman (Ronald Pickup) is still trying to pass himself off as a 40-something on dating sites. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is a long-serving housekeeper put out to pasture by her employers and now in urgent need of a hip replacement, which is prohibitively expensive or requires a long wait in England.
Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a retired High Court judge, who spent some time in India early in his life.He has a secret identity and a hidden agenda. Madge (Celia Imrie) has been married and divorced many times. She is still looking for romance and a man of wealth.These handful of people are brought together and are placed in a funky old hotel in the hectic city of Jaipur, India. The ad says "a luxury development for residents in their golden years," but once they get there, they find a crumbling old hotel, run with more enthusiasm than expertise by Sonny (Dev Patel), who inherited the place from his father.
Everyone reacts differently to India, and to the place, and all do so in a predictable manner, but makes up for this predictability, with sheer British acting personality.
AnalysisDeborah Moggach's book, "These Foolish Things," is based on the premise of setting up a retirement home in Bangalore. Director John Madden switches the locale to Jaipur. He ("Shakespeare in Love") and his screenwriter Ol Parker are way too schematic, and they keep far too much of the action within the crumbly confines of the hotel. Madden has no points for originality, but has a knack for character-driven films filled with people trying to decipher the meanings and the mysteries in their lives. Cinematographer Ben Davis puts a crisp polish on the Rajasthan locations, his cameras opting for energetic mobility as the immediate environment dictates.
People who make movies and they will tell you that an actor can rise above a bad script, but a movie can't. These actors might not be doing groundbreaking work here, but Dench, Nighy, Wilkinson and the rest are doing what they are given to do very well. The heart of the film, is Judi Dench, who in voice-over provides a running commentary. Dench and Tom Wilkinson get to convey more melancholy tones of transition in the respective twilight's of their lives. Bill Nighy with his subtle acting, as a henpecked husband, shrugs off Jean’s shots until her unrelenting negativity causes him to explode in a terrific confrontation.
Maggie-Smith's turnabout is perhaps too abrupt to be believed, but the actress deftly handles sour Muriel’s gradual discovery of a new sense of purpose as she assumes a decisive role in the hotel’s survival. India is chiefly represented by the eternally optimistic young hotel manager, played by Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel. He pushes the insinuating, over-caffeinated ethnic stereotype. Old colonial habits dies, at least in a filmic vision of India that's woefully behind the curve of a country whose lively progress on many fronts far outstrips that of its former ruler.
Although the movie is a comedy, it takes within its embrace a number of very relevant and important dimensions of this elder stage of life: health crisis, financial short-falls, disappointments, the brooding prospect of death, marital relationships, the continuing desire for companionship, and spiritual openness. Best of all is the message that you can learn new tricks, and embrace changes at any age. A change of atmosphere for some of the characters opens them up to new possibilities and for a few — total transformation. Irrespective of our age, for a magical change, all we need is a open heart, open mind, and patience.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is good for most of the two hours, and is alright in the end. As Sonny Kapoor reminds us : "In India, we have a saying — everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, it is not yet the end."
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - IMDb